Sans Souci Girls’ High School pupils protest against 'discriminatory' code of conduct

Schools' codes of conduct are being reviewed following protests that took place at Pretoria Girls' High School this week. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Schools' codes of conduct are being reviewed following protests that took place at Pretoria Girls' High School this week. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Pupils at Sans Souci Girls’ High School in Cape Town have joined the growing number of high school pupils who are calling for discriminatory codes of conduct on hair and language to be scrapped.

Black pupils at Sans Souci Girls’ High School were locked out of the school after they began demonstrating against school rules and teachers who penalise students for speaking black South African languages or who ban natural hair on schoolgrounds.

“We call this a dompas,” one pupil said to journalists, while holding a book. “We call this a dompas because anything we do wrong is recorded in this book.”

The book, which is called the “San Souci Girls’ High School Yellow Book”, is similar to a recording of a pupil’s merits and demerits. But students say that the system is discriminatory because they are penalised for speaking in their mother tongue if their home language is a black South African language. In one instance, a pupil shared how she had received a “loss” or demerit for speaking isiXhosa at school.

The students who were locked out of the school grounds are in Grade 11. The protest was peaceful, with pupils singing struggle songs and raising placards high in the air. Police vehicles were dispatched to the school on Thursday afternoon, while the protest was taking place. The school gates were locked for “security”.

Former students at the school have sent emails about their experiences at the high school. One student says that she was subjected to hair tests, where a teacher would check the scalp for extensions, while another spoke of how black South African languages are not tolerated at the school. On Thursday, a current student told EWN that a teacher had told her to “tie the bush up with whatever means she could”.

The school has not yet officially responded to the protests, but the Western Cape Department of Education (WCED) is currently reviewing the codes of conduct at schools in the province following the protests that took place at Pretoria Girls’ High School earlier this week. San Souci, a school based in the Newlands suburb in Cape Town, has agreed to change its code of conduct, but it is still unclear whether the school governing body will also co-operate.

On Thursday, students at the school were joined by pupils from Westerford High School, as well as university students from the Fees Must Fall movement at the University of the Western Cape and the University of Cape Town.

“I don’t know why I’m here. I’m supposed to be in class learning, but instead I’m fighting to be me,” said one student, who began crying, while speaking to journalists.

The WCED visited the school earlier in the morning, and has said that the school is in the process of re-writing its code of conduct. The students say they will protest again on Friday afternoon.

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